SPIT ROAD TRAFFIC
(North Shore) [5.19 p.m.]: Traffic along Spit Road and Military Road is a nightmare. The near gridlock experienced on these roads has been noted by the NRMA, which has described them as among the worst in the State. Bad though the traffic jams are, an even greater problem is the danger associated with driving along a portion of this much-used route. I refer to the Spit Road S-bends. There have been many accidents, including fatalities, along this treacherous stretch of road. Despite endless meetings and discussions over the years—ever since I have been a member of this place—the Roads and Traffic Authority [RTA] and the Minister have failed to address the problem. In fact, the RTA has tried to hide the extent of the problem by ceasing to provide information about accidents along that stretch.
In order to highlight the seriousness of the situation, the shadow Minister for Roads has resorted to asking the Minister a series of questions about these accidents. One accident that received media attention occurred last November when 20-year-old Lucy Singleton of Harbord was killed in a two-car collision. My colleague the honourable member for Wakehurst discussed the matter with me, raised it with the Mosman Daily
at the time and has since joined many others in asking whether the Government is going to wait for a repeat of the fatality before doing anything to improve the road's safety. Like the honourable member for Wakehurst, I drive along that stretch of road on a regular basis. The flowers that mark the fatal spots also mark the desperate need for measures to make the road safer.
Many suggestions have been made as to what might be done to deal with the issue. The real answer lies in alternative traffic-transport options for the many vehicles that use that route on a daily basis. Anyone who drives it can attest that this is a route which is packed not only during peak commuter hours but at weekends and at all hours. The Carr Government has made it clear, however, that it is not going to do anything about a long-term major solution. What can we do at least to alleviate the risk for those who must encounter the Spit Road S-bends that run from Medusa Street to Pearl Bay Avenue?
In considering possible solutions it is important to understand the problem. Traffic experts have advised me that it largely relates to the speed of vehicles using the road—especially the uphill section. It seems that for many motorists the automatic thing to do when starting up a fairly steep hill is to pick up speed. The speed limit on the stretch used to be 70 kilometres per hour but has now been dropped to 60 kilometres per hour, although many motorists go faster. I am told that a safe speed for the S-bends is about 45 kilometres per hour. Other problems relate to the configuration of the road, which is not only steep but also has a poorly engineered camber.
Along this stretch Spit Road is three lanes each way. As I have mentioned, it is very busy and during peak periods the inside lane is a transit lane. The lanes are extremely narrow, in some cases below the national safety standard, and certain vehicles must cross over lines to negotiate the tight bends. When transit lane restrictions are in place during peak periods these vehicles actually have to mount the median strip to get around the bends. This means that some suggested solutions will not work—such as high-tension wire fences and medium-height concrete Jersey kerbs as median strip dividers. Other proposed solutions, such as the idea of widening the laneways, are also problematic. This could only be done by reducing Spit Road to two lanes each way, which would create even greater traffic jams, or by eating into the footpath. This would involve resumption of entire properties.
The solution I am proposing is one supported by Mosman Municipal Council traffic engineers and one that could be trialled almost immediately at very little cost. It is this: first, ban articulated freight vehicles from Spit Road during peak hours; second, reduce the speed limit along the S-bend stretch of Spit Road to either 40 kilometres an hour, in line with the school zone speed limits, or 50 kilometres an hour, in line with residential speed limits, whichever is considered the safer by safety advisers; and, third, install fixed speed cameras to ensure speed limits are enforced. This will not solve all the local traffic problems but it is a suggestion I believe to be worthy of a trial. I ask the Minister to give it serious consideration and a response at the earliest possible opportunity.